Academic studies indicate that refugees from war are at risk of long term mental health problems. The Welcoming Meditation is a tool to build mental resilience for people escaping conflict.
A meditation practice for refugees and those that wish to welcome them.
A meditation scientist developed Welcoming Meditation as a non-religious practice offering refugees wellbeing support.1 It has been designed to build upon brain networks linked to a sense of acceptance, caring, health, happiness, contentment, and peace for self and others. It may therefore benefit anyone forced to leave their home.
Although refugee mental health is an under-researched area, academic studies have illustrated, not unsurprisingly, that war refugees are vulnerable to a range of long-term mental health challenges.2 Research shows that people forced to relocate typically experience two main sources of stress and trauma; firstly, the conditions leading to migration (and time spent in transit) but also additional post-migration problems.3 Welcoming Meditation aims to offer resilience to some common post-migration challenges, but it is not a mental health treatment for previous traumas. The principle of welcoming refugees is not a theory; I, together with tens of millions of others, welcome all migrants wherever they are from and whatever their destination. This practice uses the ‘self and other’ technique, emphasising positive relationships and interconnectivity.
Compassion meditation is an established clinical tool that has been used in Western medicine for over two decades.4 Welcoming Meditation is based on findings from scientific investigations and interdisciplinary research. The method builds on traditional Buddhist compassion training. During the meditation, the idea that we and others are welcome is developed. The generation of this concept means that the meditation is also appropriate for those people who wish to welcome and support refugees.
Welcoming Meditation is built on six ‘truths’, which are used in different configurations for the short, main and long practices. These concepts support individual health, happiness, and wellbeing; the notion of being welcome is the centrepiece of the meditation from which the other ideas cascade down:
- I and others are welcome
- I and others are cared for
- May I and others have good health
- May I and others have happiness
- May I and others be content
- May I and others have peace
People’s ability to meditate is not uniform, so three different versions (short, main and long) support different meditation needs and skills. The short-form is intended for people who are new to meditation or who have difficulties concentrating; the main form is suitable for most people able to meditate for around 20 minutes. The long-form is a practice for experienced meditators. Unfortunately, a small number of people may also suffer unwanted adverse effects when they meditate for the first time; please stop immediately if you experience any undesirable effects.5
- Stephen Gene Morris, neuropsychologist and meditation specialist. (Appendix A)
- Bogic, Marija, Anthony Njoku, and Stefan Priebe. “Long-term mental health of war-refugees: a systematic literature review.” BMC international health and human rights 15, no. 1 (2015): 1-41.
- Pumariega, Andres J., Eugenio Rothe, and JoAnne B. Pumariega. “Mental health of immigrants and refugees.” Community mental health journal 41, no. 5 (2005): 581-597.
- Gilbert, Paul. “Explorations into the nature and function of compassion.” Current opinion in psychology 28 (2019): 108-114.
- Farias, Miguel, Everton Maraldi, K. C. Wallenkampf, and Giancarlo Lucchetti. “Adverse events in meditation practices and meditation‐based therapies: A systematic review.” Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 142, no. 5 (2020): 374-393.